Trip Insurance Rethink Following Maui Wild Fires

Protecting Trapped Hawaii Visitors Going Forward: Is There A Way?

So many things have come to mind since the catastrophic Lahaina Maui fire on August 8. This is yet another one. To be clear, this is in no way intended to detract from our concern for the grave situation here on Maui.

Many of you feel marooned because you have to cancel your trip to West Maui, but the host may not let you. Or you were evacuated from Maui, unable to complete your trip, and had additional expenses. We heard from one reader who had a large gathering booked in West Maui for $30,000 without insurance and appears stuck holding the bill.

“How would trip insurance protect me under such fast-changing circumstances?” Trip insurance, domestic travel, and wildfires are things we had never fully connected before this. But now we all need to add wildfires and perhaps trip insurance to the context of travel planning and potential cancellations or disruptions caused by natural disasters like the Maui wildfires.

Here’s a question we just received from Jamie: “

Has anyone filed a trip cancellation claim with their travel insurance and heard back from them? I had a honeymoon planned September 2-8 staying at a condo in Kaanapali. We want to do the right thing and postpone our trip, however all of our vacation money is tied up in this non-refundable reservation.
I purchased travel insurance, but since our condo seems to still be available, I’m not sure insurance will cover the claim. I reached out to our host on VRBO just this last weekend to see if they will cancel our reservation and am awaiting their response. I understand my vacation is the least important item on the agenda right now and will remain patient. I was just wondering if anyone has had any luck with travel insurance.”

Where can Cancel/interrupt for any reason trip insurance help.

This specific type of trip insurance could protect 75% of your potentially lost investment. It’s one that we often purchase and is worth considering. That has never been as true as it is today. Whether for wildfires, airline disruptions, or a wide range of unexpected things that seem to happen much more frequently these days.

While it doesn’t cover 100%, it does protect most of your money. When we decide how much coverage we need, we remove any charges or fees we believe would be reimbursed. That way, we only cover the amount we might forfit.

Cancel and interrupt for any reason coverage are the ones that work, in most cases, no matter what. You don’t need to document anything other than that you had a trip and you cancelled or interrupted it. We consider them the fall-back clause, so that if you don’t technically qualify or the other ones like trip cancellation or trip interruption, this one will usually still work.

Trip insurance, or travel insurance, is a range of different coverage types that help protect your Hawaii vacation investment via cost reimbursement or emergency assistance in the event of unexpected events occurring before or during your Hawaii vacation. These events can range from seemingly unlikely events, like the catastrophic Maui wildfires, to medical emergencies, trip interruption and cancellation, baggage delay and loss, missed connections, and more.

Wildfires like the one on Maui spread with dramatic speed. Wildfires can result from various things, including drought, high winds (in this case, from the remnant of a hurricane), lightning, or human behavior.

Things to keep in mind regarding trip insurance and wildfires.

Trip interruption/cancellation. When a wildfire happens near your vacation destination before your trip, there may be coverage when there are specific closures, evacuation orders, or other objective disruptions. This type of trip insurance may offer coverage for non-refundable expenses, be they accommodations, air or ground travel, tours, and activities.

Travel Delay: Wildfires like the one on Maui can lead to flight delays and cancellations. Trip insurance can compensate for expenses you incur based on delays, including alternative transportation, accommodations, and meals.

Emergency medical insurance: Should healthcare be required due to wildfires, trip insurance can offer coverage. However, that is also likely available as part of your mainland medical insurance.

Fine print, limits, exclusions: Each clause of a trip insurance policy is its own binding contract with specific coverage, limits, and exclusions. Sometimes wildfires may be included, and other times not. And insurance can’t be purchased once known problems exist – like once a fire starts.

Take-away: If you buy trip insurance, you must read every clause like any other contract. That way, you can pick one that provides the coverage you expect for wildfire and other things. Policies vary widely. Also, remember what coverage may already be available to you via your current health, auto, and homeowners insurance as well as some credit cards.

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32 thoughts on “Protecting Trapped Hawaii Visitors Going Forward: Is There A Way?”

  1. I’m praying for the people of Hawaii because this is truly a set back. I have a trip to maui next year in June. The way these travel insurance companies operate I might just cancel. But because Maui needs the support I will travel there. May God be with you all🙏🏾🙏🏾

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  2. If you’re shelling out a lot of money, it’s good to pick up some travel insurance, even if it feels unnecessary at the time.

  3. Hopefully Maui fire victims can hold on through FEMA and insurance and Maui Strong payments as a Master Plan to rebuild the economic engine in Lahaina is developed and approved in order that the majority
    of Ohana in the islands agree moving forward.
    If Waikiki had burned from the beach to the Aliwai Canal, major players would come forward.
    Don Ho long ago was my neighbor in Kaneohe. This takes someone who has designed beautiful landscaping throughout Asia for half a century, Steven Mechler to give Maui his legacy of a lifetime.
    Other islanders can rebuild, but Mechler can breathe Hawaiian spirit into creating a renewed Maui mecca.
    West Coast tourism has revived but the Japanese have not returned. Maybe Biden’s team on Monday can discuss can restarting that.
    We can’t solve every issue but perhaps we can figure out ways to keep the old vistas as we renew pledges to be faithful to what brought tourists by the millions to Maui. I once traveled there to look at the stars.
    And perhaps airlines can be mindful that for a while tourists should be diverted to other islands. And perhaps for 2 years marketing needs to focus people on visiting elsewhere.
    The Aloha spirit on Maui needs time, 2 years, to come back smiling through the pain.
    Open too early and you lose that lifetime of promoting joy. Don Ho knew that Hawai’i was the pearly shell and its people are the pearls whose aloha spirit is priceless.

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  4. All airlines offer you the option to buy insurance when you book a flight, which covers the travel part of your trip. Airbnb also offers insurance for the accommodation part of your trip. For both of those options, you have to make the purchase upfront when you book.

    I use all-in-one comprehensive travel insurance for a Big Trip. The company I have found to have the best policy – not necessarily the least expensive – is Seven Corners. If you are looking for the least costly insurance, there are consolidation websites where you can compare prices and features of different travel insurance and then buy the one you decide on. (I can’t give the URL, but perhaps Rob or Jeff could do so?)

    1. Hi Margaret.

      We’d suggest people research both insurance carriers and those companies who sell Trip insurance who are agents and not the actual insurance provider. Here’s an article we wrote previously about that. https://beatofhawaii.com/travel-insurance/. We highly suggest independently research and buying trip insurance. Those are value added products for airlines and vacation rental companies. That means there is another hand the pie so to speak.

      Aloha.

      Aloha.

  5. I’ve bought travel guard umpteen years and collected twice without problems. However, many of their agents don’t know what they’re doing and I’ve had to talk to a supervisor to get problems solved. I’ve tried other companies but travel guard has better prices and packages. I make a point of documenting the exact time i’ve talked to an agent and the agents name and then tg can pull up a recording of my conversation with an agent. Before I started doing that I couldn’t prove what I had been told so couldn’t collect.

  6. Aloha! Thanks for all the great posts on the devastating fires in Maui. My heart breaks for all affected, and I know this is just the beginning of a very long road.

    Aside from the obvious relief effort websites, which are appreciated, I’d love to see a list of local Maui businesses that I could support in the coming months with online purchases. The holiday season will be here soon (hard to believe in 100+ degree temps in Texas), and a post such as this might help other users who would like to support Maui from afar.

    Mahalo!

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    1. From another Texan who just got back from Ka’anapali yesterday, that is a great idea. We were going to buy ornaments from CocoNene on Front street, but didn’t go before the fire☹️. They sell online. I’m sure there are many others.

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    2. Great idea Britney,
      I suggested that after the Gatlinburg Tenn fire a few years ago. Shortly after that severaI businesses beefed up theiir online websites and it made a real difference. I really believe that is an excellent idea.
      You might even start by ordering things for birthday presents for friends.
      Maybe even write the airlines suggesting they reduce their freight outbound costs for a month or two to get the ball rolling.

  7. I usually buy travel insurance, but it’s tricky when the situation is that you CAN go on your trip, but it’s suddenly a really bad idea. We had plane tickets to go to Maui in July 2020, and due to COVID we decided not to go. The flight wasn’t cancelled though, so we couldn’t invoke the travel insurance and just had to deal with Hawaiian airlines’ rescheduling policy. Luckily we were able to cancel our lodging within the 100% refund window. Ultimately, someone has to pay for a canceled trip, whether it be the insurance company, the traveler, or the vendor who sells transportation or lodging. Remember that your AirBnB fees are paying someone’s mortgage on that property, and those costs just don’t evaporate. Hotels need to rent rooms to pay for the hotel staff, or else everyone is out of a job.

  8. What company is the best for trip insurance?
    I got ripped off by one because of Covid, the event I was to attend was canceled and on top of that my wife was just released from a hospital the week before. No Refund!

    1. Hi John.

      Good question. We’re trying to figure that out ourselves. We had a trip that got interrupted recently which was insured by our old standy-by, Travel Insured. It was the biggest claim we’ve ever had. Nearly two months have passed since we filed the claim and we still haven’t gotten paid. So on the next trip we’re going to try another company. Sounds like the subject for an article…

      Aloha.

      Aloha.

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  9. The recent tragedy shows how poorly Hawaii is prepared to handle disasters. I would hope politicians will actually take positive steps to make Hawaii a safer place.
    The state of Florida forced all gas stations to install generators in order to insure a reliable source for fuel during a prolonged power outage. Once the disaster has passed there is an immediate supply of fuel for generators and power equipment to help survivors.
    There also needs to be redundant power for the water supply, and communications systems.
    It is sad that we only learn from tragedy!
    Maui is in all our prayers!!
    It allowed survivors to

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    1. I don’t think it matters where you are, When a fire hits, You have minutes to get out, I’m in San Diego and my father lost his home to a fire about 5 years ago, It hit so fast he got out with nothing. Everyone is trying to get out at the same time, There is no fix for that.

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  10. No body has mentioned it, that Grass fire can be ignited when an Automobile, or Pickup Truck is parked on grass and tree leaves areas, by the hot mufflers, or tail pipes being very low under any vehicles.

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  11. So I’m just curious how the hotels/vrbo’s from kaanipali north will they allow you to cancel reservations especially since the main road heading that direction is closed and no timetable when it will be open again. I have a trip planned for December 27- Jan 3 and i just am not sure what to do.
    Thanks

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    1. Hi Darrell.

      It would be best if you can wait until we can get past the immediate crisis. There will be more announcements coming soon.

      Aloha.

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  12. We were just in Maui, and got back yesterday. We bought Travel Guard through United. We tried getting out of Maui through United, and flights were difficult to find. We called Travel Guard for help, and tried to explain we only could make cell calls sporadically and usually far away from the condo. We were on the 7th floor and that made it difficult. That department was unavailable, so we asked if we could schedule a call back and was told that they can’t give us a time. So it was sit outside and down the walkway waiting for a call for who knows how long. They obviously don’t understand “catastrophic loss of all services.” Anyway, United got us on a 3 leg trip and got us home. We will see if they will reimburse for lost days.

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  13. Most airbnb refund policies are where the host and guest split the risk 50/50 as it gets closer to the check-in date. Prior to that, a full refund will vary based upon the hosts setting. Note that some hosts offer an additional 10% discount in exchange for a non refundable reservation. The guest receives the additional 10% discount in exchange for taking on all of the risk. I’m sure everyone on Maui could use the $’s right now if you visit ends up being non refundable. You might check to see if the non refundable payment could be counted as a donation for disaster relief?

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    1. Yea good luck with that, People buy these as investments to make money. Most of those resorts the HOA fee’s are in the thousands, They will except the bad review and keep your money. There going to say you should of bought insurance.

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    2. BoH, Thanks for giving the latest updates. We have 2 condos in Wailea. We had a family scheduled to stay next week. They said they wanted to cancel. I called Vrbo to ensure they could get, not only the rent, but also the Vrbo service charge. After discussion with her supervisor Vrbo assured me they could get 100% of their payment returned. The communications confirm that they received 100% refund. A couple of days later, I received an email from Vrbo saying that near term Maui reservation cancellations could get 100% refund. Since then, neighbors here in TX cancelled their West Maui reservations where there was no power and booked the vacant condo.

      1. Hi Dan.

        Thanks for that update and so many other comments over the past 7 years. We had a report today from one of the Kaanapali resort properties saying that the electric grid is not currently stable.

        Aloha.

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  14. Your title includes “Trapped Hawaii Visitors” and makes me wonder if any of the deceased in Lahaina are tourists?
    Seems that everyone assumes only Hawaii residents perished, does anyone know if that is a fact?

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  15. Oh please…human beings….do not beat up each other. I’m Devastated by the destruction of the wildfires! My family has been visitors to Maui for over 40 years….no not native, but Love and Respect everything about the Hawaiian culture. This tragedy is in it’s infancy and I think cancelling “trips” a few months out is pre-mature. Do you really know yet what the the island people need? They’re livelihood is at risk. I think these poor souls need to take it one day at a time. My heart and soul is with you all.

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  16. Have used trip Insurance for a Rhine river cruise I had to cancel due to a medical issue. They reimbursed all fees and reservations. Wife still went and had a great time . Our son’s father-in-law had to be medicated yo the states from a cruise ship and it was covered.
    Due your duedillagence with your travel agent, Auto Club handled ours, very experienced agents, use them.

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  17. I have travel insurance and it would cover my reservation in Kaanapali and the inter island Air, however it won’t cover the cost of the delta 1 seats I have booked to oahu. Delta will only give me a credit which is good only until December which is 1 year from when I booked my flight. If I hadn’t been able to change my reservations to a different island maybe travel insurance would have paid for my plane tickets but I’m not willing to count on it and possibly lose my money. Only cancel for any reason is a sure thing and that’s really expensive.

    1. We have been residents since 2015 on Kauai. In 2018 we had booked a stay with VRBO in Maui – come to find out the owner was a doctor. Then came the announcement of a big storm heading there. We tried to cancel or postpone – she rebuffed us. We contacted VRBO directly and they reimbursed us immediately (presumably from her). There is a callousness shown by many owners toward tourists – I heard a neighbor who does this laughing about keeping some peoples money……

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  18. Aloha BOH Bro’s

    That’s why I prefer to book travel thru Costco. We’re booked for a Wailea stay first week of October I can cancel for full refund up to 7 days from travel date.

    By the way as of this posting Hawaiian Airlines booking site has crashed has been down for several hours.

    Talked to friends in Kihei said things are starting to get nervous for both residents and businesses. Feels like ghost town.

    They know no federal relief like covid is coming feel that if tourist don’t start coming soon it will be a major disaster for small business on Maui.

    They’re really pissed off at celebrities like the Rock and Jason Momoa for telling people to cancel travel to Maui.

    Not Good.

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    1. Hawaiian Air’s site has been under denial of service attack. I’m certain they are implementing mitigating actions now to address it. Eventually the attackers will decide to stop if it gets too expensive to pursue as Hawaiian closes doors. Will likely end up blocking some non-US visitors for a while until their rules are adjusted.

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